Asian aid ship to Gaza fraught with challenges, say activists

11 Jan 2011

Source: alertnet // Nita Bhalla

PSflag648.jpg

A Palestinian flutters during a Hamas rally in Gaza City, Dec. 14, 2010. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

NEW DELHI (AlertNet) – Asian activists who travelled from India to Gaza to deliver $1 million of aid say their journey was fraught with challenges, including being tracked by Israeli warships, having their satellite communications blocked and harassment by the Egyptian authorities.

The Asian People’s Solidarity for Palestine – a group of 120 activists which included aid workers, journalists and students from 17 Asian nations – left New Delhi on Dec. 2, 2010 and spent a month travelling across six countries to bring aid to Gaza in defiance of an Israeli blockade.

The convoy – dubbed “Asia 1” – was carrying medicines, four ambulances, surgical equipment, generators, milk power and other relief items, and is the first Asian aid convoy to Gaza.

“We travelled mostly by road through India, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey before boarding a cargo ship in Syria to get to Egypt where we planned to cross the Rafah border into Gaza,” said Aslam Khan, vice president of the All India Students Association.

“But it was not easy and we faced many hurdles at sea,” he told a news conference in New Delhi.

Israel ended 38 years of Gaza occupation in 2005. But it began blockading the Gaza Strip in 2007 after Hamas Islamists hostile to the Jewish state seized power from Palestinians prepared to negotiate peace with Israel.

Imports were tightly restricted until June last year, when Israel faced a world outcry for killing nine Turkish activists in a commando raid to intercept a blockade-busting aid flotilla.

BLOCKED VISAS, WARSHIPS

Khan and other members of the convoy said during their journey from the Syrian Al Ladhiqiyah port to Egypt’s Arish harbour, they were followed and harassed by Israeli ships in the Mediterranean sea.

“There were initially two warships and then two more appeared about three miles (5 km) from our ship and while they maintained a distance, they followed us and repeatedly sending our captain radio messages asking him to explain who we were,” said Khan.

Khan added that the aid ship’s communications systems were jammed by authorities and they could not communicate with the outside world.

Israeli officials however say there was no need for convoys to the Gaza Strip, adding that the area was open to all civilian goods that enter daily via established crossing under the auspices of the United Nations or the Red Cross.

“The intention behind this ‘convoy’ has nothing to do with humanitarian aid, and everything to do with political provocation,” said David Goldfarb, spokesman at the Israeli embassy in New Delhi.

“It was therefore no surprise that the group met with leaders of internationally-recognised terrorist organisations such as the Islamic Jihad and the Hamas. As a consequence, it could only be expected that this group would make every effort to vilify Israel, on its return to India.”

But organisers of the convoy say the challenges of getting the much-needed aid to the Gaza Strip did not stop there.

Egypt refused visas to Iranian members to enter Gaza through its Rafah border and initially refused to allow the aid ship to dock at its Arish harbour for three days.

Egyptian diplomats in New Delhi said they were not aware of details of the incident, but said that there were certain “rules and regulations” that the Arish harbour authorities may have in place, which may not have been adhered to.

After much protest, the group was eventually permitted to unload the aid and take it across the border into Rafah on Jan. 3 where it was handed over the Palestinian authorities, said one of the lead organisers, Firoze Mithiborwala.

“Our objective was not just humanitarian,” he told journalists. “It is to call for a free Palestine and an end to the blockade.”

Asian aid ship to Gaza fraught with challenges, say activists – AlertNet.

Egypt allows Iranian aid to reach Gaza

PressTV – Thu Jan 6, 2011 11:30PM

Asia to Gaza Solidarity Caravan activists
Egypt has opened its border with Gaza to humanitarian aid and relief, allowing medical supplies from Iran to be delivered to the besieged enclave through the Rafah border crossing.

The Iranian medical supplies are part of an Asian aid convoy, dubbed Asia to Gaza Solidarity Caravan, or Asia 1, which is carrying an estimated one million dollars worth of medicine, foodstuffs and toys as well as four buses and 10 power generators for hospitals.

Earlier this week, Egyptian authorities had denied entrance to a number of Iranian activists and refused to allow 10 generators donated by the Islamic Republic to pass through the Rafah border crossing.

The relief supplies have been unloaded from a ship organized by the convoy, which has docked at the Egyptian port of El Arish.

The Asian convoy consists of activists from more than 15 countries, including Iran, India, Japan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Kuwait.

The convoy had travelled 7,000 kilometers, but was stuck in Latikia, in the northwest of Syria, for more than a week awaiting Egypt’s permission.

It started its journey in the Indian capital, New Delhi. It had passed through Iran, Turkey, Lebanon and Syria to reach Egypt and finally the Gaza Strip.

The convoy was scheduled to reach Gaza by December 27, the second anniversary of Israel’s 22-day war on the impoverished enclave that started on December 28, 2008.

Tel Aviv has been enforcing an all-out land, aerial and naval blockade on the 1.5 million Palestinians in the enclave since mid-June 2007.

The illegal Israeli-imposed blockade has created dire humanitarian and economic situation in the enclave as the United Nations expresses concern that over 80 percent of people of Gaza depend on relief supplies for their survival.

On May 31, Israel’s military killed nine Turkish activists aboard the Freedom Flotilla, an Ankara-backed humanitarian convoy, which was carrying humanitarian supplies to the Palestinians.

HA/MGH

Related Stories:

PressTV – Egypt allows Iranian aid to reach Gaza.

Asia Convoy 1: Shame on US, Israel for Gaza blockade

[ 04/01/2011 – 07:41 PM ]

 

GAZA, (PIC)– Asia Convoy 1 head Feroz Mesberola said the convoy’s naval vessel carrying 20 tons of humanitarian aid valued at one million dollars docked at Port El Arish, Egypt Tuesday morning in its final stop for the aid to be unloaded onto trucks that will carry it to the Gaza Strip through Rafah.

The convoy’s activists earlier flew from Syria to Egypt before crossing over to the Gaza Strip through Rafah. The multi-national mission set out Monday morning on a tour of Gaza to assess the region’s situation.

Reaching the Shifa hospital in Gaza in the course of the tour, Mesberola said the facility’s medical staff are an elemental part of the Palestinian resistance of the Israeli occupation. Israel wants to kill Palestinians with illnesses, he said.

“You provide aid and well-being to the Palestinians despite the difficulties you suffer. We found the hospital to be very clean and advanced in its services,” he went on to say.

“Shame on America and Israel for not allowing the hospital to finish some of its buildings until now. Israel fears the cement that the Palestinians build with.”

“We feel it is our duty to offer aid and needed medicines to the hospital, so we are preparing Convoy Asia 2, which we hope will arrive June this year.”

Ebraman Abdurrahman, heading the convoy’s Indonesian delegation, announced that the Indonesian government will erect a hospital in the Beit Lahia district, a project that was kicked off in 2008 in northern Gaza in cooperation with the health ministry.

Gaza hospital authority director Madhat Moheisan expressed his gratitude to the convoy for coordinating with hospital regarding the required medical supplies. The convoy equipped the health facility with 30 solar-powered back-up generators

Asia Convoy 1: Shame on US, Israel for Gaza blockade.

Asia 1 convoy arrives in Gaza | Exclusive Pictures

E-mail Print

Asia 1 convoy arrives in GazaEXCLUSIVE PICTURES

The Asia 1 convoy finally set foot in the Gaza Strip after an epic journey starting in New Delhi, India in early December 2010. They had hoped to reach the besieged Strip on the anniversary of Operation Cast Lead (27 December 2010). However, due to political sensitivities the convoy was delayed in Syria for up to a week before being granted visas into Egypt. The convoy passed through Iran, Turkey, Lebanon and Syria, before being allowed into Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

108 humanitarians out of the original 170 walked into Gaza City earlier today to the applause and warm welcome of the local Gazans. Iranian members of the convoy as well as Jordanian and a few other nationals were prevented by the Egyptian authorities to enter. The convoy consisted of humanitarian aid worth around $1m and included four ambulances, eight trucks carrying 1,000 tons of medical aid, clothing, infant milk, and specialist equipment for those with special needs.

The delegation visited the areas left devastated after Operation Cast Lead, which claimed over 1,400 Palestinian lives, many of whom were women and children, and met with families of current prisoners of the Israeli occupation. They also visited a number of people who still carry visible scars and injuries from the onslaught on Gaza in 2008-09.

The Indonesian contingency of the Asia 1 convoy have promised to set up a hospital in the northern region of the Gaza Strip, an area left almost totally destroyed after the Israeli aggression. The delegation later met members of the Council of Ministers including Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad

 

 

 

 

 

 



Asia 1 convoy arrives in Gaza.

Maan News Agency: Haniyeh greets Asia 1 activists

 

 

Published today 20:57

 

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Gaza government Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Tuesday welcomed the Asia 1 convoy to Gaza.

The aid convoy, backed by nations in Southeast Asia, drove from India to Syria and sailed for Egypt bringing hundreds of tons of food and medical aid to the besieged coastal enclave.

Haniyeh said the convoy was unique because more than a hundred activists traveled with the aid, noting that this brought greater attention to the siege-breaking event.

The group was also special as it had the youngest Palestinian activist on board, a baby less than a year old, Haniyeh added.

The Gaza leader said he hoped such convoys would continue to travel to the Strip, and that they would eventually end Israel’s four-year blockade.

The activists arrived on the second anniversary of Israel’s three-year war on Gaza, Operation Cast Lead. Haniyeh said the activists could see that Israel had failed to destroy the resolve of Gaza’s residents despite its devastating assault.

Head of the convoy Fayruz Misburula said the arrival in Gaza was “a dream come true.” Millions around the world wished to visit the coastal enclave and be with its people, he said.

Maan News Agency: Haniyeh greets Asia 1 activists.

‘Egypt’s aid blockade, pro-Israeli move’

PressTV – Tue Jan 4, 2011 7:12AM

Hassan Rooyvaran -Head of the Iranian delegation with the Asia to Gaza Solidarity Caravan, (Asia 1) says Egypt’s decision to block Iranian humanitarian aid from reaching the Gaza Strip is a pro-Israeli effort.

We expected Egyptian officials to cooperate and accept Iran’s humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza, since this is a humane effort to exhibit solidarity with the people of Gaza, Hassan Rooyvaran said on Monday.

Cairo had previously announced that it would allow the passage of Asia 1 aid convoy to El Arish port only if 20 Iranian activists stopped accompanying the caravan.

The Egyptian government has also refused entry to several other non-Iranian activists to Egypt as well.

The Asia 1 aid convoy carrying food and medical supplies to the besieged Palestinians in Gaza entered the coastal strip through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on Monday.

The convoy had travelled 7,000 kilometers, but was stuck in Latikia, in northwest Syria, for more than a week awaiting Egypt’s permission.

The aid convoy started its journey in the Indian capital, New Delhi. It had passed through Iran, Turkey, Lebanon and Syria to reach Egypt and finally the Gaza Strip.

Rooyvaran reiterated that Cairo’s opposition to Iran’s humanitarian aid is against the wave of solidarity with the impoverished people of Palestine.

“We condemn Egypt’s action and regard its decision to block the delivery of any type of aid to the people of Gaza in line with policies of the Zionist regime,” he continued.

The activists say their mission is to demonstrate solidarity with the besieged people of Gaza and part of their resistance against Israeli atrocities.

Tel Aviv has been enforcing an all-out land, aerial and naval blockade on the 1.5 million Palestinians in the enclave since mid-June 2007.

The embargo persists while Gaza is far from recovering from the December 2008-January 2009 Israeli war that claimed the lives of over 1,400 Palestinians, inflicting an additional damage of more than $1.6 billion on the enclave’s economy.

AO/MB/HRF

Related Stories:

PressTV – ‘Egypt’s aid blockade, pro-Israeli move’.

Asian aid convoy arrives in Gaza | V I D E O

PressTV – Mon Jan 3, 2011 5:3AM

Ashraf Shannon, Press TV, Gaza

The Asia to Gaza Solidarity Caravan, (Asia 1), the first aid convoy from the southern hemisphere arrived in the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing. But Egyptian authorities prevented Iranian activists with the convoy from entering Egypt.

Some 105 human rights activists gathered at the crossing. Most of them flew to Egypt from Syria. Eight activists arrived at the Egyptian port of El Arish onboard a ship carrying tons of humanitarian aid.

The aid convoy started its journey in the Indian capital, New Delhi. It passed through Iran, Turkey, Lebanon and Syria to reach Egypt and finally the Gaza Strip.

Journalists accompanying the convoy spoke of the arduous journey to Gaza.

Activists from around 15 countries, including India, Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Turkey are part of the convoy, which is supervised by international relief foundations. But Iranian activists, including seven lawmakers, were not granted entry visas by Egyptian authorities to visit the besieged territory.

The organizers say convoy members come from different places and religious backgrounds, proving that there is a global consensus on the need to lift the blockade on Gaza.

Most of the activities were disappointed to see that their fellow Iranian counterparts could not make it into the Gaza Strip.

One activist brought her eight-month old daughter with her, who is the youngest member of the convoy. She had this to say.

On its way to Egypt’s al-Arish port the Asia aid ship was harassed by Israeli navy nearly seven months after Israeli forces attacked the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and killed 9 activists on board.

Almost a month after they began their journey from Asia to break the Israeli siege, the aid Convoy members are finally making it through into the Gaza Strip.

PressTV – Asian aid convoy arrives in Gaza.

Asian aid convoy reaches Gaza Strip

 

PressTV – Mon Jan 3, 2011 12:48AM

Asia to Gaza Solidarity Caravan (file photo)
An aid convoy carrying food and medical supplies for the besieged Palestinians, as part of an Asian aid mission, has arrived in the Gaza Strip.

The Asia to Gaza Solidarity Caravan, (Asia 1) entered the coastal strip through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on Monday.

Some 105 human rights activists gathered at the crossing. Most of them flew to Egypt from Syria. And eight activists arrived at the Egyptian port of El Arish onboard a ship.

Egyptian authorities had prevented Iranian activists with the convoy from entering Egypt.

The convoy had travelled 7,000 kilometers, but was stuck in Latikia, in the northwest of Syria, for more than a week awaiting Egypt’s permission.

The aid convoy started its journey in the Indian capital, New Delhi. It had passed through Iran, Turkey, Lebanon and Syria to reach Egypt and finally the Gaza Strip.

The activists say they want to display solidarity with the Palestinian people in their resistance against Israel.

Tel Aviv has been enforcing an all-out land, aerial and naval blockade on the 1.5 million Palestinians in the enclave since mid-June 2007.

The embargo persists while Gaza is far from recovering from the December 2008-January 2009 Israeli war that claimed the lives of over 1,400 Palestinians, inflicting a damage of above $1.6 billion on the enclave’s economy.

FTP/AGB/MGH

Related Stories:

PressTV – Asian aid convoy reaches Gaza Strip.

Five Israeli naval ships tracking Asian aid ship

Five Israeli naval vessels are tailing the ship carrying humanitarian supplies from Asia to the besieged residents of Gaza.

Speaking via satellite phone, Shaheen Moidunny, who is on board the ship Salam, told The Hindu that Israeli ships had been tracking the movements of their vessel for the last six hours. Radio contact had been established with the Israeli navy. “We are only one hour away from the Egyptian port of Al-Arish, where the ship would be docked,” Mr. Moidunny said. He clarified that there were no plans to take the ship to Gaza. “All the humanitarian supplies would be taken overland from Al-Arish to the Rafa crossing on the Egyptian Gaza border,” he said.

Mr. Moidunny said only eight persons were on board the aid ship, while the rest of the activists, from several Asian countries had been flown into Egypt from Syria.

According to the Egyptian website Ahram Online, the “Asia to Gaza Solidarity Caravan” had remained stuck for nearly a week at the Syrian port of Latakia, before Egyptian authorities granted it permission to enter Al-Arish port. Activists from more than 15 countries, the majority of whom are Indians ,but also include nationals from Iran, Japan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Kuwait are participating in this initiative

The convoy, which set off from New Delhi on December 2, was scheduled to reach Gaza by December 27, a day ahead of the second anniversary of Israel’s 22-day war on Gaza.

Earlier, Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper quoted Palestinian sources as saying that the Egyptian embassy in Damascus had issued visas to 120 activists, but had denied entry to another 46 hailing from Jordan and Iran. Some of the aid material, including 10 generators donated by Iran, were not allowed on the ship, and the size of the cargo was kept below 300 tonnes.

The Hindu : News / International : Five Israeli naval ships tracking Asian aid ship.

Israeli Commandos Intercept Gaza-Bound Ship on Route to Egyptian Port

News number: 8910121528

18:35 | 2011-01-02

World

Printable Version Send to a friend

 

Israeli Commandos Intercept Gaza-Bound Ship on Route to Egyptian Port

TEHRAN (FNA)- Israeli commandos intercepted a Gaza-bound aid ship en route to the Egyptian port of Al-Arish in international waters and interrogated the crew and the peace activists aboard the vessel.

Reports from the passengers aboard the ship said that the vessel carrying an Asian Aid Cargo for the besieged people in Gaza was chased by the Israeli frigates and aircraft since early morning hours and was later forced to a halt by several units of Israeli commandos in international waters.

Unofficial sources said that the Israeli commandos have made several arrests, although they have not faced any resistance by those onboard the vessel and although the ship was moving from Syria to Egypt.

The ship, carrying only eight members of the Gaza-bound Asian convoy, left Syria’s Lattakia Port for al-Arish Port in Egypt on Saturday.

The eight members include peace activists from Azerbaijan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan.

Egypt has already granted permission to a number of activists to cross its border with Gaza. Cairo’s approval is required to reach the Gaza Strip through the shared Rafah crossing, particularly since Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip was tightened in 2007.

The convoy, which currently has activists from 18 different nationalities onboard, began its journey from the Indian capital, New Delhi and traveled through Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Lebanon.

The move came nearly seven months after Israeli forces raided the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on May 31. Over 100 Israeli soldiers supported by military choppers boarded a Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara, leading the six-ship convoy in international waters.

The Israeli commandoes killed 20 international human rights activists and wounded 80 more. Nine of the victims were Turkish nationals. Some members of the European parliaments, former western diplomats, reporters and human rights activists were among the victims of Israel’s brutal act.

The siege of Gaza started in June 2007 when Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip. This was supported by the governments of Egypt and the US.

The blockade consists of a land blockade along Gaza’s borders with Egypt and Israel and a sea blockade. It immediately followed the 2006-2007 economic sanctions against the Palestinian National Authority following the election of Hamas to the Palestinian government.

The blockade has attracted criticism from many Human Rights organizations. September 2009 UN fact-finding mission found that the blockade of Gaza “amounted to collective punishment” was likely a war crime and a crime against humanity and recommended that the matter be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Fars News Agency :: Israeli Commandos Intercept Gaza-Bound Ship on Route to Egyptian Port.